Middle East handset replacements among world’s highest

Some suggest that people are building up a collection of handsets, “a little like watches”.

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By  Alex Ritman Published  September 18, 2005

Handset replacement rates in the GCC are apparently among the highest in the world, with reports that subscribers in Kuwait are buying new handsets every four months. “There is a very rapid sales rate in Kuwait,” says Helsinki-based Gartner analyst Leif-Olof Wallin. In the UAE Wallin says it is even more aggressive with regard to sales figures. “We are seeing almost 160% penetration, which is almost a world record.” While some subscribers are looking to the advanced features on the new handsets, many he says are simply following the fashions. 3G phones, for example, are selling extremely well in markets where 3G services have yet to be launched. “This is a global phenomenon,” says Watinaya’s director marketing and sales Timo Everi. “Some subscribers have highly advanced phones yet don’t even use the clock, or the calendar.” In Bahrain, even those without a high level of income are reported to be spending large amounts on handsets on a regular basis. “There is a craze where a person with a monthly salary of BD200 (US$531) would go out and purchase a BD100-150 handset,” says Batelco’s government and investor relations specialist, Nasser Al-Khalifa. Gartner’s Wallin sees the high turnover rate as not always replacements, but people building up a collection of handsets, “a little like watches”. Looking especially at the UAE, multiple subscriptions might be one reason for the high purchase rate. “Someone may have a subscription for work, another for their wife and perhaps even another for personal use,” says Wallin.

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